Tears of joy greet little Daksh Sood as he is finally reunited with parents in Ottawa

Posted by admin on Feb 2nd, 2016

Hugh Adami – Ottawa Citizen


Bhavna Bajaj waited three years for the moment, and when it finally arrived Thursday afternoon at Ottawa International Airport, the sheer joy of having her little boy in her arms brought the perfect ending to a long heartbreak.

Bajaj says there were tears, laughter, hugs and kisses after she was taken from the general arrivals area to the closed-off Customs section to greet her four-year-old son, Daksh Sood, who had just stepped off a plane with his father, Aman Sood. Sood travelled to India in early December to visit his son, whom he had not seen since they were separated. While in India, Sood could not have imagined the developments that would come just before Christmas, involving Immigration Minister John McCallum, that allowed the boy to be reunited with his parents in Canada.

What was a long, unnecessary and inhumane separation, first reported by The Public Citizen on Dec. 26, 2014, stemmed from the couple’s failure to disclose they had a son before they landed in Montreal on Jan. 28, 2013. Daksh was born before their initial application for permanent residency. The couple, approved as permanent residents under the skilled workers category after the boy was born, had left Daksh behind in India with his paternal grandparents and had planned to sponsor him once they were settled here. It turned into a nightmare.

But shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday, when the family emerged from Customs, mother and father were beaming. Daksh seemed confused by the media attention, tired and a little cranky after a three-day trip to Canada. The voyage included a five-hour drive to New Delhi and two flights, one to London and the second to Ottawa.

Said Bajaj: “If I have my family with me, I have everything.”

Bajaj, who had a bag of treats for Daksh and revealed there were several gifts waiting at home as well as many planned activities, said she was overcome with emotion as she embraced her son. She travelled to India for a month in 2014 to be with him. As the tears rolled, she said she kept hugging and kissing Daksh. Soon after, Daksh started hugging and kissing her back.

“He has grown big,” said both parents.

Sood said he never lost hope that Daksh would be allowed into Canada. “It feels like the best gift I have ever had in my whole life. Now, our family is complete.”

But in early 2013, Canada Border Services Agency officers at Montreal’s Trudeau Airport had different ideas as soon as they learned about Daksh and the plan to bring him to Canada, likely that coming spring. After five hours of questioning and accusations that they were trying to thwart the rules, they were told to either sign a declaration that they would never attempt to sponsor their son or be sent immediately back to India. Under duress, confusion and hope that things would be straightened out, they signed the declaration.

Former Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander appeared to ignore requests from the couple and their supporters to reunite the family. Immigration’s bureaucracy wasn’t any better and seemed to dig in as more Citizen stories about their ordeal followed the newspaper’s initial report.

In 2014, a Canadian visa officer in New Delhi stunned the couple with outrageous reasoning in rejecting their application to allow their son into Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. The visa officer wrote that Daksh was better off in India, living with his grandparents in an environment “culturally and linguistically familiar to him.” The Federal Court seemed to support the decision in refusing to review the case later that year.

The parents, meanwhile, communicated daily with their son, 11,500 kilometres away, through Skype.

Subsequent applications for a temporary resident permit for Daksh were returned with ridiculous explanations, leaving the parents’ immigration lawyer wondering if anyone at the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi was reading the documents.

But everything changed last Dec. 22 as a result of a chance meeting between Bajaj and McCallum outside his office on Slater Street.

Bajaj and some supporters spotted McCallum as they were about to enter the building with a 10,000-name petition calling for Daksh to be allowed into Canada. After hearing the mother’s story, McCallum promised to look into the file. McCallum called Bajaj the next day to say he was immediately granting Daksh a temporary resident permit, which will allow a permanent residency application down the road.

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